Friday, 26 July 2013


To help get the Oink! message out there this issue, the summer special, would also be given away free (inside those same plastic bags the preview issue came in) with other IPC comics, hence the two covers and the subtle "NOT FOR SALE!" over the second one above, making this issue available on a wider scale.

Normally comics back then (and still these days with the likes of The Beano and the now-defunct Dandy) would have Summer Specials, big thick issues separate from the normal run.  Seeing as how Oink! had only started it'd be the next summer before we'd be treated to one ourselves, after all it would've had to have been created a few months in advance and at that stage no one knew if the title would be a success or not.  But making it available to buy and also giving it away for free made this issue special.

And, of course, so did the contents.

I'm a sucker for comical sharks and have already featured one on the blog, but hey you can never have too many of them and this time one would turn up to scare one of our regulars.  Well, potentially scare anyway:

I've always loved Tony Husband's very freeform style, it always comes across as very natural, like he'd simply sit down to draw and all the ideas would come flowing out.  Definitely something new for kids' comics.  When Oink! joined with Buster after a couple of years I was surprised Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins wasn't taken over too, but in hindsight I can tell this style probably just wasn't seen as a fit for what I'd call a 'normal' comic.  Definitely their loss though!  Horace was a star, and I'd love to know what he's at these days, because you'll see as we go along Horace's life does evolve as Oink! continues.

But now for something rather infamous.

In 1986 early in the life of the comic, Oink! was reported to the Press Council.  Ultra-conservative parents, Christian Aid, some youth groups and Mary Whitehouse's own lot hadn't taken the humour in our next strip too well.  As with these sorts of things in British society, some groups felt the need to take offence on behalf of others.  Just look at the whole Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand thing from a few years ago when the BBC received four complaints about the programme, but then one Daily Mail campaign later and 40,000 people who never listened to their radio show in the first place "took offence".

Oink! was aimed at children, but suitable for all and I for one had parents who found it cheeky but funny.  But let's not forget it was aimed at children, not the parents.  But not being the target audience didn't matter - these groups thought this next strip was proof it was a bad influence on children.  Their children probably loved it, probably had the same cheeky sense of humour as Oink! (most kids did!), but still the official complaint was put through.  In the end it was ruled as being "tasteless" but harmless, and the complaint wasn't upheld.  However, part of the fallout from this was that some stores, most notably WHSmith placed Oink! on their top shelves from then on, away from the children's comics because of these "offended" groups.

But, a year later, in an interview with Crash! magazine Tony, Mark and Patrick would be all too happy to confirm sales of 100,000 per week.  The moral?  Never underestimate Pig Power!

Here's the strip, a spoof of those 1930s oh-so-sweet stories of genteel life from Tom Johnson - Janice and John and the parachute jump:

Janice and John would indeed return in the aforementioned sequel Janice and John and the Thermonuclear Reactor but it ended up not appearing until much later in the run, possibly due to the team holding it back because of the complaint.  The original strip above would also be referenced in a brilliant update on the complaint in #28.

The next regular character to be introduced on the blog was one of my favourites.  Always appearing in simple little one-to-three panel stories, the sheer variety of craziness on show from issue-to-issue and the streamlined joke every fortnight were at times pure genius.  I know many of those reading who grew up with the comic will love the inclusion of Roger Rental, He's Completely Mental, written by Graham Exton and drawn by Northern Ireland's own Ian Knox:

What else can I say?

I think Roger's strips may appear quite frequently here.  While "laughing out loud" is something which apparently everybody does every five minutes every day of their lives these days if text messages are to be believed, back in the day it took something special and Roger Rental was it every single time!  I can remember some of them still now without having read the comics yet.  I want to share them all right now, probably just as much for my own benefit of reading them again as my wish to let you all see them, but patience must be had.

(Graham Exton has again provided some more behind-the-scenes info in the comments section, and the secret is out!)

In the middle pages of this issue we were also treated to eight rather rough-around-the-edges postcards to cut out and use from Ian Jackson.  Interesting to see how Ian would draw other artists' characters here, and some of the postcards themselves are priceless.  I wonder if anyone actually did use them?:

The comic also ran a competition (you can see a reminder along the bottom there) and my hazy old memory has this issue as one I was given by my cousin after I'd started reading Oink! at a later stage, as I can remember not wanting to ruin my comic by cutting them out and cursing I hadn't been buying it at the time so I could've had two!

You never know, if some of my friends are reading this now, next time I'm on holiday they could be getting something completely unrelated to where I am.

If anything can sum up the randomness of this comic the following strip from Haldane is it:

If this were a Marvel or DC comic we'd have had about seven months of marketing before seeing two characters do a crossover.  Not that Hugo is taking a blind bit of notice mind you.  However, two other notable characters by completely different artists would soon be doing their own joint venture.  This might not sound like much, so what if an artist draws characters by someone else, it happens all the time and even did above on the postcards.  But no, it's something special, so keep an eye out for it soon.

But now the sun is setting on another issue of the world's greatest comic:

by Tony Husband

But not before Uncle Pigg signs off this issue.  As I've said before each early issue's page 2 would have a strip of some size or other where our illustrious editor would introduce the issue, usually at the expense of Mary Lighthouse.  Then, usually on page 30 (of 32) judging by the issues so far, he'd round off the comic with the second part of whatever had been happening earlier.  This particular instance also sets up a rather good twist (in the pig's tale) for #8:

by Mark Rodgers & Ian Jackson

And the comic would keep to its word.  Join me in two weeks for a rather unique issue (not that any weren't of course) and the introduction of a fan favourite who never even had their own strip.

Next issue on sale Friday 9th August.


Andy Boal said...

Roger is by Ian Knox, not Ian Hope (and script apparently by Graham Exton!)

The things I missed back in the 80s!

Phil Boyce said...

Apologies, couple of silly errors tonight. Wrote it this morning before work, planned to proof-read it tonight when I got home but didn't get the chance and had to publish it first or it wouldn't have gone out on the right day :S proof-reading now and noticed the discrepancy with Ian and Graham, so thanks Andy! :)

Graham Exton said...

Roger was originally called Barmy Barney (we had a friend at college called Barney). I had a charming student in Cannock who used to take things very literally, just like Roger. I think he was the template. He was nowhere near as mad as Roger, you'll be relieved to know.

Phil Boyce said...

Did Cannock ever know...? Or recognise himself??

Did you write all the Roger Rental strips Graham? I remember there being some absolute gems in there!

Graham Exton said...

No, lots of folks did Rogers, including my good friend Keith Forrest (check him out on YouTube). As for Cannock recognition, it's unlikely, as I only figured it out myself the other day. But I did get the kids to help with other scripts, so got names in. "Tiddles' was one of my 8th graders, and she got a shout out in Spare Part Kit, I think. The best thing they did was a large pamorana of the Butlitz holiday camp, which featured the teachers of Sherbrook High being tormented in amusing ways.